SKOWHEGAN — For many years, Margaret Chase Smith School fourth- and fifth-graders have taken a hands-on approach while learning about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and the nearly 3,000 victims.

Students spent Friday placing a flag in memory of each of the 2,977 people that were killed on 9/11. The total does not include the 19 hijackers who also died.

In 2003, former enrichment teacher Larry Ross started the tradition in his backyard. Ross’ enrichment students, along with other students at Margaret Chase Smith School, helped set up the display. The following year, the display was moved to the front yard of MCSS to allow all students to participate. Each year, except for last year due to COVID-19, the tradition has continued.

Teachers Linda Greenlaw and Mary Herrick helped plan and organize the event this year.

“The flag display is a beautiful memorial of a very tragic day in our country, and it is a wonderful way to educate our students on how our country handled the horror of that day and found a way to come together and help one another,” said Herrick.

Even though Ross has retired, each year he volunteers his time to continue the tradition of the flag display in the school yard. The flags are borrowed from Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in California.

“It is important for this tradition to continue because for these students, the memories are secondhand stories and to them 9/11 is history,” said Principal Christy Johnson. “As students learn the stories of 9/11, 20 years after it occurred, they can benefit from critical learning strategies and much more importantly, how history is constructed and why.”

In preparation for the anniversary, students are taught background information about 9/11. Instruction includes a short reading with an overview and discussions about the day. Then, students focus on the more positive things that have come as a result, including how people pulled together to help one another and the memorials the country now has.

“This tradition is deeper than remembering the people that died on 9/11,” said Johnson. “It shows our students that they can be a part of something bigger than themselves. It builds community within and beyond the school.”

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